It’s a story that, in the immortal words of SNL’s Stefon, has everything: a lecherous plus-size billionaire turned president; a renowned adult-film actress; NFL quarterbacks; reality-TV offers; hotel hanky-panky; three-way sex invites; shady lawyers; hush money; a model-wife scorned; and, last but certainly not least, Shark Week.
Yes, the alleged affair between President Donald J. Trump and porn star Stormy Daniels has captured the public’s imagination—and understandably so. But there’s been something deeply unsettling about the tabloid-ready imbroglio as well.
America has long been a hypocrite when it comes to pornography. Everyone looks at it (even Ted Cruz) but few are wont to actually discuss it. Worse, some of its biggest consumers demonize it out of Puritanical shame. A decade after he allegedly conducted an affair with Daniels and forcefully groped another porn star in Jessica Drake, all while his wife Melania was at home with their four-month-old son, Barron, candidate Trump signed off on a GOP platform that branded porn a “menace” and a “public-health crisis,” despite the fact that red states watch it the most.
This sanctimonious attitude has extended to the treatment of Daniels in the wake of the Trump story. Headlines from outlets like the Associated Press and The Washington Post have labeled her nothing more than a “porn star,” refusing to mention her by name. Meanwhile, it’s Daniels who’s been forced to publicly address the rumored affair as the powerful man who, in Weinstein-esque fashion, stands accused of luring her to a hotel room with false promises of a career-changing gig on The Apprentice, has the luxury of staying silent.
It all came to a head during a recent installment of Jimmy Kimmel Live! wherein host Jimmy Kimmel, who New York Magazine recently baptized as “our Cronkite,” subjected Daniels to a remarkably sexist and unprofessional interview.
With an adult-film actress on his couch, the typically affable and respectful Kimmel mutated into his Man Show persona of old. When Daniels mentioned how she’s been cyberbullied on the internet, with people calling her an FBI informant or a man, Kimmel shot back: “Well, we’ll have to do a full examination and figure that out.” He painted a picture of Trump watching their interview at home, lying in his bed surrounded by cheeseburger wrappers, thinking, “Oh no, Stormy! Why are you on that talk show when you could be here in bed with me, having the most fantastic love-making of your entire life.” Daniels handled the gross image like a pro, brushing it off with a joke.
Kimmel proceeded to read aloud the details of Daniels’ alleged sexual encounter with Trump, including that they engaged in “textbook-generic sex” and “he did not use protection,” and Daniels, silenced by a purported non-disclosure agreement, remained evasive. He rather puzzlingly attempted to draw a line between her alleged series of Trump trysts and Donald Trump bringing Bill Clinton’s sexual-assault accusers to a presidential debate. When he asked Daniels if she felt any “guilt towards Melania” for allegedly sleeping with her husband, she replied with a candid answer about how guilty she feels that her 7-year-old daughter will one day be exposed to all of this—only to have Kimmel respond with: “You said in the interview that you could describe—in detail—Donald Trump’s junk.” What is wrong with you, Daniels replied. Plenty, apparently, as Kimmel then presented Daniels with a black box containing three different-size carrots, asking her if she’d “like to pick a carrot,” thereby indicating the size of Trump’s aforementioned “junk.”
Daniels has sought to capitalize on her recent notoriety, launching a lucrative “Make America Horny Again” stripping tour that’s been attended by a roving gang of journalists eager to land an interview with the rumored Trump paramour. According to The Washington Post’s Dan Zak, one such journalist was so eager that he “put his face in Stormy’s cleavage” during a strip-club appearance in Greenville, South Carolina. Can you fault Daniels for wanting to explain her side of the story? Or for trying to make a few bucks at a time when media reports threaten the terms of her supposed NDA?
It’s a strange coincidence that the Super Bowl is upon us, featuring none other than Justin Timberlake as its halftime performer, since the Stormy situation has certain elements in common with “Nipplegate.”
That unfortunate 2004 episode saw pop icon Janet Jackson bear the scarlet letter after Timberlake ripped her costume’s right breastplate off, exposing her breast in front of an audience of millions. Jackson was cruelly pilloried, with Viacom—owners of MTV, who produced the performance—banning her from its stable of music channels. She was forced to apologize over and over again for the mishap. Her career ground to a halt. All the while, Timberlake, the man primarily responsible, brushed off the controversy with jokes before going radio silent, forcing Jackson to absorb the entire impact. His career ascended. It took him two years to properly apologize for the incident and come to the defense of Jackson.
Because you see, whenever there’s any sort of “sex scandal” in America, it’s all too often the woman who is blamed and shamed.